Juventus: Scudetto Only Emphasizes the Rest of Serie A’s Struggles

Before they match up with Real Madrid in Tuesday’s first leg of the Champions League Semi-Finals, Juve were given the opportunity to celebrate their fourth consecutive Scudetto. Their success in the league has been tremendous for the club, and has helped vault the Old Lady to their current position in Europe.

Indeed, Juve’s success has been a boom for the club. They’ll receive a financial windfall for reaching this late stage in the competition while also standing a good bet to advance vs Real thanks to their role as extremely-overlooked underdogs.

While the success has been wonderful for Juve (they’ve outlasted comparables in Ligue 1 as well as every club representing the mighty, mighty Premier League), the same cannot be said for the rest of Serie A.

Italian football is not what it once was. This much is true. Players are no longer flocking to the peninsula, in fact, players are staying away from it. Top level players at least. Elite talent tends to seek out teams in England, Germany or atop La Liga as opposed to playing in Italy. This makes the fact that Juve out-lasted every English, financial powerhouse (and PSG) all the more outstanding.

While the Bianconeri are clearly the best team in Serie A, their quick assent to the title this year has been aided by poor play from the rest of the league, at least comparative to past years. It seems Juve will continue to carry the banner for Italian football in Europe. They may be alone in this duty.

After Juventus, the two most historically successful Italian teams are the Milan clubs. Inter and A.C. Milan. Sadly, as Serie A has fallen, so to have the Milan clubs. Inter won the treble in 2010 under Jose Mourinho, but haven’t been the same since. Their core players from the Mourinho days have grown old, and suitable replacements are yet to be found. Inter currently sit in eighth place in the standings with 49 points, thirty behind champions Juve with 79.

Inter’s Milanese counterparts have also fallen victim to losing their core. Like Inter, Milan’s nucleus consisting of the likes of Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf and Alessandro Nesta, grew old. Also like Inter, the team is still searching for worthy replacements.

Additionally, Milan has lost its contingent of star players, namely Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Andrea Pirlo and Thiago Silva. These losses, coupled with the departures of Antonio Cassano and Alexandre Pato, have left the cupboard bare in Milan. The club has attempted to replace their former stars with the likes of Cristian Zapata and Nigel de Jong, as such they haven’t been able to reach the same heights. A.C. Milan are actually fairing worse than Inter. The Rossoneri are eleventh in Serie A with 43 points. If they had lost two more games they’d be in fourteenth place on goal differential.  

Over the past few years, Roma and Napoli have replaced the Milan clubs as challengers to Juve’s throne. Both have spent heavily in order to upset their rivals in Turin and both found moderate success (stress moderate) before struggling.

Roma have swung and miss with some acquisitions (Juan Iturbe, Ashley Cole) while Napoli simply haven’t been able to make up ground despite their numerous investments.

Thanks to a lack of domestic success, non-Juve Italian teams have struggled in making major strides in Europe. Napoli failed to qualify for the Champions League for this season and have been stuck in the Europa League. The Naples-based club deserves props for destroying Wolfsburg (who currently sit second in the Bundesliga), but Napoli’s other competition has been Anderlecht and Dynamo Moscow. They play Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the Semi-Finals. Hardly the stuff of legends.

Roma has an entirely different story to tell. The Romans were placed in an admittedly tough Champions League group with Bayern and Manchester City. The finished third, but were only relegated to the Europa League on goal differential thanks to finishing even on points with CSKA Moscow, a team thirteen points off of first place in the Russian Premier League.

A.S. Roma barely got by Feyenoord in the Europa League Round of 32 before losing to Fiorentina, a team they are currently 12 points ahead of in Serie A, by an aggregate score of 4-1. They were embarrassed by the Tuscans 3-0 in Rome. In two European matches (in Rome) against Bayern and Fiorentina, Roma lost by a combined score of 10-1.

Outside of Napoli and Roma, the closest team to Juve in the standings is plucky Lazio. The other Roman club is one point behind their archrivals in the standings. They’ve played well this season, but could have issues moving forward. Lazio were extremely frugal in the last transfer window and are staring at the prospect of losing Miroslav Klose.

Juventus won Serie A, and for the fourth consecutive time I might add, but the Turin-based club could use more help domestically. Serie A’s reputation is slipping if it hasn’t already slipped. For Juve to continue their success in Europe and domestically, they need the league to start performing better. This will draw better players to the league, which will in turn make the league more competitive in Europe. The added competition should help Juve greatly.

Regardless, Juve will continue to be the favorite in Serie A, but they could use some help in raising the league’s profile from the rest of the peninsula.

For more Juventus, click here. For more Soccer/Football, click here. For more from the world of Serie A, click here.

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Updated NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers: Celtics, Pistons, Heat, Bucks, 76ers, Lakers, Nuggets and Suns

Winners:

Losers:

Coming Soon- The Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers: Winner- Philadelphia 76ers

The NBA trade deadline has always played second fiddle to Major League Baseball’s trade deadline. While it will always trump the NFL’s generally underwhelming trade deadline, it lived up to the annual precedence set by baseball with a bevy of moves that shocked not only based on volume in terms of but also because of the prominent players being moved like Isaiah Thomas and Goran Dragic.

(That’s three “trade deadline mentions! If this article gets six, everyone gets a free haircut at Supercuts and beef jerky from 7-Eleven!).

Winner

Philadelphia

On the surface, Philly’s deadline deals are bizarre. They took on JaVale McGee’s $12 million salary for next season while essentially dealing cornerstone Michael Carter-Williams and promising rotation player K.J. McDaniels for Isaiah Canaan, a first-round pick and a second-round pick.

However, upon closer examination, the deals aren’t that crazy. The Sixers had the salary-cap space to absorb McGee, and essentially got him free along with a protected first-round pick in this year’s draft. If the former Denver center can regain any of the form he’s shown when full-strength, then some team might take a flier on him, leading to further assets. The fact that his contract expires after next year makes him even more appealing in a trade, possibly at some point next season. Plus, they get a first-round pick out of the deal. It’s likely a pick somewhere in the early twenties, but still… they received all this for the rights to draft-and-stash pick Cenk Akyol, a 27-year-old who’s held the “draft and stash” distinction for 11 years.

While McGee’s acquisition seemed somewhat logical, the loss of Carter-Williams and McDaniels can seem little puzzling. After all, Carter-Williams was still on his rookie deal and averaged 16 points, 6.7 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game in a season and a half in Philadelphia. McDaniels was a former second-round pick averaging 9.2 points off the bench.

So why is this a win for the Sixers if they dealt a promising young point guard and a potential long-term rotation player?

Even with Carter-Williams, the Sixers were going to stink for a while before they got better. The reality is that if he stayed in Philly he’d probably be pretty expensive salary wise by the time the team was contending again. Trading him for a first-round pick (originally the Lakers’ pick, which is top-five protected this year) allows the team draft a potential impact player, similar to what Carter-Williams would have been, only they get to paying him after his rookie contract later rather than sooner—when the Sixers will likely be contenders.

There’s also the question of how good the young point guard real is. Sure, his per-game numbers look good on paper, but how much of that had to do with how bad Philadelphia is? The tanking Sixers’ lack of comparative talent has turned Evan Turner and Tony Wroten into 17 points-per-game scorers. Both are good players, but 17 points a night? Probably not on a better team where they’d play fewer minutes. Case in point, Turner averaged only seven points a contest after being dealt to Indiana halfway through last season. That’s not to say Carter-Williams is going to be limited to seven points per outing with Milwaukee, but the extra minutes and shots garnered by Carter-Williams in Philly make it hard to truly gage his talent.

The last part of Philadelphia’s deadline dealings was shipping McDaniels to Houston for Isaiah Canaan and a second-round pick.

Again, why deal McDaniels?

Firstly because he only signed a one-year deal as his rookie contract, turning down a multi-year offer to gamble on himself in order to garner a larger contract in free agency. So far, the gamble has paid off. McDaniels averaged 9.2 points and 3.8 rebounds a game, not bad production for a second-round pick in his rookie season. He’ll likely garner a multi-million dollar, multi-year deal in the offseason, something Sixers’ GM Sam Hinkie apparently wasn’t willing to pay.

The same logic used with Carter-Williams can likely be used here. McDaniels was likely going to be somewhat costly (not as much as Carter-Williams, but still much more than what he’s making now) by the time the Sixers are in a position to contend. By dealing him now, they are able to take a flier on Canaan as Carter-Williams’ replacement while also recouping a second-round pick. That pick will come from either Minnesota or Denver, two of the worst teams in the league. Because of that, the Sixers could be looking at an early-second round draft choice. Due to the pick’s proximity to the first-round in terms of talent level, and lack of comparative financial commitment, they can be very appealing to teams.

Check back for more winners and losers of the trade deadline, including thoughts on what Phoenix and Milwaukee did, plus the lack of action on the Lakers part.

All stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

Seattle NBA/NHL Updates

Here’s the latest on the Seattle NBA/NHL front.

Chris Hansen’s Sonics Arena website put out a release on Tuesday. You can read the full extent of it here. You can follow the good people at Sonics Arena on Twitter here and like them on Facebook here.

According to the Milwaukee Business Journal, the Governor of Wisconsin will propose a “jock tax” to help pay off the Bucks’ potential new arena. The Bucks could be in play for Seattle at some point in time and have often been mentioned in relation to a potential moved.

Here’s King 5 reporter Chris Daniels with the latest from Seattle Mayor Ed Murray:

 

Also from Murray, Seattle is “trying to move ball forward” with the NBA and the NHL. This report from King 5.

Murray also had a “nice chat” with the NHL, according to Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports, Seattle would be considered, along with Las Vegas, ahead of fellow expansion candidate Quebec City.

Euro 2016: Why the Serbian National Team is a Dark Horse

The Serbian national football team hasn’t qualified for the European Championships since 2000 when they reached the quarter-finals. 2016 could be different. Qualifying has yet to officially begin, but the Serbs have been handed a manageable group—Portugal, Denmark, Armenia and Albania are their rivals in qualification. This won’t be a cake walk by any stretch; Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal is one of the top 20 teams in the world, Denmark is a solid squad and Armenia just missed qualifying for the playoff to get into Brazil 2014. Still, with the talent Serbia has, you would favor them to advance.

Coach Dick Advocaat’s selection pool features players plying their trade in numerous top leagues. With Serbs employed at club teams in Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal and France among others, there’s certainly talent. However, Advocaat’s strongest contingent comes from the Serbian internationals playing in England’s top flight. With players at top clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City, the team has a strong nucleus. The team is especially strong in midfield and defense, two reasons why they could do serious damage in 2016.

Sitting in front of veteran shot-stopper and onetime Wigan keeper Vladimir Stojkovic is a defense that could arguably be one of the finest in Europe. The two most-capped players on the back line are Chelsea stalwart Branislav Ivanovic and Manchester City’s Aleksandar Kolarov. These two will man the wide positions while the center back options give Advocaat a plethora of potential selections. At the coach’s disposal is Borussia Dortmund star Neven Subotic, Serie A veteran Dusan Basta, Kolorav’s club teammate Mastija Nastasic and Lyon defenseman Milan Bisevac. A theoretical back line of Ivanovic, Kolarov, Subotic and Nastasic arguably provides more stability and quality than the defenses of European big boys Spain and England.

Further up the pitch in the midfield are a diverse group of Serbs that provide dynamic play and defensive support. Whatever tactical formation is used, you can bet that Chelsea man Nemanja Matic will be sitting in front of the back four, providing key passing and making timely tackles. In addition to him, Advocaat can deploy a number of quality players in the central and wide areas of midfield. These includes recent Liverpool signing and lightning-quick Lazar Markovic, Southampton’s newest goal-creating threat Dusan Tadic, Roma attacker Adem Ljajic and Benfica owned Filip Duricic.

Serbia’s depth and quality is nowhere near that of Belgium, another recent dark horse from Europe, but they are similar in talent to Switzerland, a team that pushed Argentina to the brink in the World Cup. The Serbs won’t win Euro 2016, and at this point they haven’t qualified, but if they get there, they’ll make some noise.

Kingdome of Seattle Sports on YouTube and the Seahawks Super Bowl Championship Banner Ceremony

Knowhitter’s sister site Kingdome is on YouTube. Check out Kingdome’s first video—a recording of the Seahawks’ 2013 Championship banner unveiling ceremony right before the opening game of the 2014 NFL season at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Don’t forget to subscribe. To see the YouTube channel in its entirety click here. To see a similar piece on Kingdome, click here.